‘ALIENS: COLONIAL MARINES’ (M)
Making an “Aliens” game feel fresh is not an easy task. No movie has been cannibalized for video game parts quite as voraciously as James Cameron’s 1986 sci-fi/action classic. Everything from “Metroid” to “Dead Space” has drawn inspiration from it. And the “Halo” series has gone so far as to shamelessly rip off the space marines, the vehicles, the firepower, the parasitic alien threat and even the cigar-chomping “Sarge.” The gameplay in all of these titles has garnered unanimous critical acclaim. So any first-person shooter that borrows its aesthetic from “Aliens” without coupling that with superb gunplay is doomed to feel like a low-rent “Halo.” Such is the fate of “Aliens: Colonial Marines.”
Taking place in the aftermath of “Aliens” and retconning several events from “Alien 3, Colonial Marines” returns to the colony on LV-426, which we last saw obscured by the thermonuclear blast of an atmosphere processor. Turns out nuking the site did remarkably little to the complex’s familiar infrastructure, let alone the Xenomorph hive inhabiting it. Say what you will about evil megacorporation Weyland-Yutani, but they build their deep space colonies to last. So it’s up to a second unit of marines to reduce the extraterrestrial bugs to mere acid stains on the floor grates. As a virtual tour of “Aliens, Colonial Marines” is a fanboy’s dream. Everything from the colony’s dark corridors to the planet’s wind-torn landscapes is painstakingly re-created from Syd Mead’s and H.R. Giger’s original designs. Even the sound effects are spot on, backed by James Horner’s percussive score. But as a game, “Colonial Marines” is pure mediocrity. Repetitive alien drones have a tendency to charge straight down the sight of your pulse rifle, so tediously clearing each area of infestation makes you feel less like a badass marine than a futuristic bug exterminator.
‘FIRE EMBLEM: AWAKENING’ (T)
“Fire Emblem: Awakening” updates the series’ grid-based, strategy RPG formula for a new generation and a 3D platform. Gone are the charming 2D sprites of the past — replaced with stunningly expressive 3D character models, which make the once-static combat scenes visually dynamic, while retaining all the strategic depth that made “Fire Emblem” great in the first place. Careful placement of characters on the battlefield is more important than ever now that adjacent units can bond, form relationships, fall in love and even have children (who can eventually grow up to join your ranks!)
SPECIAL FORCES: TEAM X (M)
Xbox Live Arcade
The most interesting idea in this exclusively multiplayer online shooter is that the combatants get to vote before each match on the various elements that will comprise the battlefield. Once the votes are in, the winning elements are randomly assembled into an unpredictable map that hosts standard games of Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, etc. Unfortunately, the constituent elements are so generic, it hardly matters whether you cast a vote for a shipyard backdrop or a construction site. In the end, no matter what you vote for, everything winds up feeling the same. That’s democracy for ya. CV